Obama Discusses Health Exchanges, Premiums With Insurance Leaders
On Friday, President Obama met with several insurance industry executives at the White House to coordinate the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges and to discuss controlling premium rates, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, federal government and health insurers face a significant challenge in planning "one of the most complicated and far-reaching social undertakings ever." The ACA is expected to expand coverage to an estimated 27 million uninsured U.S. residents, including seven million through the exchanges in the first year.
Details of Meeting
During the hour-long meeting, Obama told the executives that the government and insurance industry are now "joined at the hip" and are "going to make it work," according to officials with knowledge of the meeting. The officials also said that each side shared information about their plans to promote the exchanges -- specifically ways they would reach young individuals -- and enrollment centers.
One official described the meeting as "productive," adding that Obama "discussed our shared goal of educating Americans about the value of health insurance and the new health insurance marketplaces."
According to the Times, Obama also discussed the issue of "rate shock," which has been highlighted in recent weeks by the media, as well as Republican lawmakers who oppose the ACA. The Obama administration has dismissed such reports as overblown, saying critics who focus on premiums do not take into account the law's other provisions that limit consumers' out-of-pocket costs.
The meeting's attendees included:
- Chet Burrell of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield;
- David Cordani of Cigna;
- Karen Ignagni of America's Health Insurance Plans;
- Scott P. Serota of the BlueCross BlueShield Association; and
- Joseph Swedish of WellPoint.
In addition, Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended (Calmes, New York Times, 4/12).
Sebelius Says Exchanges Will Be Ready On Time
Meanwhile, Sebelius expressed optimism that the exchanges will be ready on time, telling lawmakers at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Friday that HHS is "determined and on track to meet the Oct. 1 deadline," The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
When asked if HHS had a backup plan in case the deadline is missed, Sebelius said, "No" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/12).
During the hearing, Sebelius said in fiscal year 2013 HHS has done "an extraordinary job" of "allocating and using judiciously" the $1 billion appropriated to the department under the law (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 4/12). HHS is seeking an additional $1.5 billion for FY 2014 that Sebelius said would go toward information technology to get the data hub and call center running.
When pressed again about how HHS would proceed if the funds were not approved, Sebelius said that the data hub is nearly finished and would be completed on time ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/12).Although it is unlikely that Republicans in Congress would agree to approve HHS' budget request, CQ Roll Call reports that members of the House Ways and Means Committee did not explicitly dismiss the idea (CQ Roll Call, 4/12). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.